Clash of Civilizations and Remaking of World Order – Book Review
by: Huntington, Samuel P.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Inc
Copyright: 1996, ISBN: 
Cover: Terry Rohrbach/ Base Art
reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, January 16, 2005
Summary: Read for Fact And Figures.
THE CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS AND THE REMAKING OF WORLD ORDER (CCRWO) is one of those delightful books crammed full and saturated with historical references tied together with an agenda born out of fear. A very good book however.
For those of us who majored in history, CCRWO titillates deteriorating synapses, stimulates the desire to re-engage the philosophical debate of individual action versus collective thought, and provides a target for practicing death-ray thought projections at mediocrity. And it’s only a book.
One more line of hyperbole: CCRWO is to historians what the “DA VINCI CODE is to Christians.
Huntington goes to great lengths to establish the foundation for his assessment that there are eight or nine civilizations in the world today and that future geopolitical conflict will result from the clash of these civilizations. To engage the argument that the world has moved beyond nation-state conflicts to civilization conflicts, one must first accept Huntington’s premise that the world is neatly divided into civilizations and that these civilizations have unique interests requiring them to stride toward ascendancy over all other civilizations. Think about that a moment. Then throw into the mix the glue that binds the premise together: culture and religion.
Well, okay. Karl Marx and Fredrick Engle are now passe, having been sweep into the gutter of history by a bunch of loons who took socialism and twisted it into the “dictatorship of the proletariat”–that is to say, Lenin’s communism. Communism was a world-view in which there were only two kinds of people: those who have and those who don’t. (Communism simply took that world-view and created it within the microcosm of a nation-state of have and have nots–those in the party and those not in the party).
The CCRWO world-view would have us believe that there are seven kinds of people: those of Western civilization, those of orthodox civilization (Russia), Islamic civilization, Hindu civilization, Japanese civilization, Latin American civilization, and of course, African civilization. All these peoples are just ticking away and pulsating with feverish cultural identity and proselytizing religious intensity–sort of like a bunch of communists with very bad head colds. There is bound to be conflict and, need we mention, sanitation concerns, as in ethic cleansing.
Huntington does an extraordinary job of describing these various civilizations and the defining attributes of each. However, after a certain point you come to realize that we are deep into the world of semantics generating meanings rather than meanings producing semantics. At what point does an individual with a severe psychological social adjustment problem become the embodiment of the society of which he is a product? Aldoph Hitler genuinely hated Jews, Lenin genuinely hated the Romanov police state of Russia, Mao Tse-tung genuinely hated the subjugation of China by foreign interests. In each instance the individual brought about an inter-civilization conflict-Hitler in Western civilization, Lenin in the Orthodox civilization and Mao in Chines civilization. Germany discarded Hitlerism, Russia folded the tent on communism (though it is still stuck in the carnival of an autocratic state), and China has grown beyond Maoism. The world has, according to Huntington, moved beyond inter-civilization conflicts and it is now civilization against civilization–civ to civ, so to speak.
It is no longer the individual who “projects” the culture onto the world stage, it is the nation-state itself. Interesting. In defining civilizations, Huntington relies upon processes of socialization-cultural values, religion, and, though he does not mention it, folk-traditions. If we left this argument at the question of who or what promotes civilization against civilization in Huntington’s world, we would essentially be mired in an academic–among historians–discussion of whether processes generate conflict or whether conflicts are directed by those individuals with severe psychological social adjustment problems. It’s an academic discussion because the answer, if one is needed, is irrelevant. Conflicts are conflicts and solutions to conflicts are invariably acts of conquest or compromise whether they are inter-civilizational or civilization against civilization.
So, the real question is whether human-kind, divided as we are by culture, religion, and science, has significantly advanced beyond the xenophobia that allows nuts to “found” a religion or social or political movement and lead us all to war. Beyond that question are a slew of labels, such as Western civilization, Orthodox civilization, capitalism, communism, ad nauseam. We package the mediocrity of the human condition in a bright new shiny package of labels and assume we have taken a farther step away from the jungles of tribalism and the innate fear of strangers. What’s the point?
Huntington pretty much supplies the answer to that question when he says that a war between “the core states of the world’s major civilizations is highly improbably but not impossible.” That’s good news. But note that we slip back into a discussion of “core states” rather than civilizations. And so it goes. The author devotes three hundred pages meticulously defining civilizations in conflict, but comes back to the political state, emphasis upon political, to assess possible actions. From that point, it is not too much of a skip and jump to contemplate those lone individuals with severe psychological social adjustment problems who transform their nation-state into outlaw states. We don’t need new labels for that.
What Huntington labels civilizational conflict is a concept as old as humans coming together to form societies. Those societies which absorb other cultures, other civilizations, prosper; those societies that rigidly resist the influence of other cultures eventually perform Herculean acts of self-destruction.
Read CCROW for the information it contains. But as a new label to slap on geopolitical conflicts, the premise stretches itself too thin.